The Normal Sleeper’s Guide to Insomniac Survival

I have a problem, I am an insomniac. On and off for my entire adult life (and many parts of my younger life as well), I’ve had to adapt to a world that revolves around people who sleep and aren’t afraid to flaunt it.

“There’s plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead.” That belief makes my lack of sleep easier to accept, but it certainly doesn’t make it easier to seem alive. Even when I’m sleeping well I’m an early riser, regardless of how late I stay up at night. But there’s a difference between getting just a few hours of quality sleep and spending the night analyzing the best place to put your arm, listening to how loudly your bed mate is breathing, wondering if spiders are on the ceiling above your head, and trying to come up with solutions to world hunger and social injustice while worrying that you actually WILL fall asleep and won’t be awakened by the alarm. When that happens for one night it sucks. When it happens for 3 nights… well, ever wonder where zombies come from?

I’ve spent stretches of my life trying to function as the walking dead, struggling to navigate the world of the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Starting into this, my next bout of insomnia, I’m tired in more ways than one. I’m done with trying to fit into your happy little rested world. It’s time you learn how to deal with me, instead. Here then, is your guide to the zombie apocalypse, how to survive in the presence of me on zero hours sleep a night.

#1. Emotions. Women get a bad rap for being über emotional. In some cases it’s a well-deserved rap, but I hate public emoting. I can count on half a hand the number of times I’ve cried in public, and although I’m outspoken, I prefer diplomacy to a good ole screaming match any day of the week. HOWEVER, the longer I go without sleep the less control I have over my emotional state. Therefore, for this, my time of sleeplessness, you MUST be nice to me. Don’t be TOO nice – that will make me all mushy and weepy – but smile in my presence, or at least keep a straight face. Do not raise your voice, do not criticize, and do not squint disapprovingly. Do not tell me I look tired, do not bring me the wrong colour popsicle, and definitely do not make me watch sappy Olympic ads on TV. All of the above will ensure that you are bombarded with boogery bawling of the highest order, and/or a battery of swear word abuse.

#2. Driving. I travel 60km each way to and from work. I have a strong work ethic, so no matter how insomnia-impaired I am feeling, I WILL make that drive. Consider this a warning. You have hereby been notified that you should stay off the roads until such time as I advise you that it is once again safe to drive, walk, or ride your bike. I will not be held responsible for any maiming, crushing, or killing that results from my inability to differentiate between red and green lights or to see people on crosswalks while my eyes are closed.

#3. Coffee. During this time there will be much caffeine. Unfortunately for you, it has been scientifically proven that insomnia results in elevated heart rates, and elevated heart rates can cause unsteadiness. Coincidentally, caffeine ingestion ALSO causes unsteadiness. For your own safety, do not approach me while I am holding a mug without first issuing ample warning. Even then, I highly recommend keeping a distance of at least 10 feet for fear of spontaneous spastic beverage launches and other foreseeable attacks.

#4.Communication. Lack of sleep has been shown to cause a serious reduction in cognitive function. Although I may think I am speaking to you clearly, there have been times when the words I believe are coming out of my mouth are actually

  • (a) completely the opposite of what I’m trying to express,
  • (b) completely unrelated to what I’m trying to express, or
  • (c) completely devoid of any word that’s ever been found in the English language, excepting glossolalia.

I recommend that during this time you communicate with me only through email. This will allow me to edit my thoughts for clarity and remove any channeling of the undead before I attempt to issue my reply. Should you insist on contacting me via telephone or in person, I have no choice but to refuse responsibility for anything I may say or otherwise communicate to you. Please do not take offense.

#5. Decision making. If you ask me to make competent decisions at this time, particularly in relation to issues of consequence, you will be acting with extreme disregard for due diligence. While I am suffering from lack of sleep it should be assumed that my logic and ability to reason are on par with the mental abilities of a three year old. Your crisis may be ignored unless you bring candy.

As insomnia progresses it renders its victims increasingly stupid. There’s a reason why zombies crave brains. If history is an indicator I’ll return to sleeping eventually, at which point we can all proceed as normal. Until then, for your own protection I recommend wearing a helmet in my presence, accompanying your visits with chocolate and coffee, and allowing me the luxury of screwing up without criticism or consequence for however long this condition lasts. In return I will make every effort not to ruin your day, break down in tears, and minimize death and dismemberment to the best of my ability.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation. I think we’ll both appreciate it.

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